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Jeff Emslander: 3M scientist pairs with 4-H for mentorship and fun

Jeff showing a cow as a 4-H'er
Growing up on a dairy farm in Pine City, Jeff Emslander was involved in agriculture from a young age. As a member of Sunnyside 4-H, he participated in a variety of traditional 4-H experiences: growing vegetables, showing dairy cattle and participating in the dairy judging team. However, Jeff’s passion was in the sciences. Through 4-H, he was able to explore this interest further, creating electricity exhibits and other science projects.

After completing high school and attending the University of Minnesota, Jeff began work with 3M. Thirty years later, he is working as a Staff Scientist in the corporate research lab department, with his focus being on polymers (plastics). Craving novelty, he enjoys this position as he gets to combine and create materials in ways others have not before.

Jeff’s reintroduction to 4-H as an adult is thanks to his wife and children, who were active in the horse program and other various projects in their local 4-H club. He loved helping his children on their projects and visiting the State Fair, always making sure to spend a healthy amount of time in the 4-H Building. Yet it was two years ago that Jeff’s involvement picked up, when 3M was hosting a tour for the 2014 4-H Conference youth at their Innovation Deck. The person originally involved was unable to give the tour, but with Jeff’s own experience with 4-H he seemed like the perfect person for the job! The tour inspired Jeff to investigate other ways that he and 3M could partner with youth in the future. “3M is big on collaborating and exploring options,” Jeff says, “and 4-H fosters that mindset.”

Jeff and a visiting 4-H group
Coordinating with CYFAR and Urban 4-H, Jeff has spent the last two years connecting youth and scientists for activities and presentations.  Moving forward, Jeff wants to grow his 4-H contributions, hoping to make 4-H visits an annual event and growing relationships with 4-H youth. He cites strong 4-H leaders in his youth for helping him succeed, and wants to fill the role of a mentor for current 4-H’ers. Joanna Tzenis, CYFAR Extension Educator, said of Jeff: “This isn’t something 3M [has] ever done; Jeff just loves 4-H so much he works the loopholes to make it happen.”

So why does Jeff love 4-H? It is a great opportunity to try new experiences, build friendships, and learn the behind-the-scenes of events like the State Fair. He continues, “You don’t realize it at the time, but you are learning constantly. It hits you later, as an adult, but as a 4-H’er, you’re just having fun!”

Outside of 4-H, Jeff is involved with several 3M youth mentorship programs. He participates in the Visiting Wizards, as a scientist sent to elementary classrooms to raise interest in STEM and host hands-on experiments. He acts as a role model and local scientist for 3Mgives projects. Additionally, he acts as a mentor for the Discovery Education/3M partnered Young Scientists Challenge. He was matched with Hannah Herbst of Florida, who created an energy probe prototype as a power source using ocean currents. With guidance from Jeff, Hannah ultimately won the 2015 competition at only 15-years-old.

True to the 4-H pledge, Jeff is giving his hands to larger service every day at 3M, with 4-H, and other youth programs and is an alumnus we are proud to have in Minnesota.

Maddi Miller
Minnesota 4-H Foundation

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